Composting in Thornesworld

Pretty every four years or so. Gone in 8 hours.

We had one of our rare snows this winter in February.  They happen about once every four years or so and the snow doesn’t usually stick for long.  This time we had a fun 6 inches or so, but it only lasted about 8 hours.  Which is actually perfect for me.

This week I managed to get out in the garden a bit. I Loooove my garden. It’s really slow goin’ this year. The nights are still chilly here in the desert, and I’m super busy with all the magickal and art crafting as well as finishing up the drywall in my new bedroom! My neighbor, bless him, is starting my seeds for me this year.  He has a full greenhouse with all the nifty lights and the space!  So he’s starting my 100 or so Anaheim Chile seeds, and 6 each of 5 tomato varieties, both heirloom and stable hybrid. Everything else will be direct seeded on April or May, depending on the weather.  I’ve got a lot of new herbs to put in, along with my usual cukes and squash and peas and melons.  But right now I need to get a layer of composted mulch down on my asparagus beds, and that brings me to today’s topic. Compost!

You know I loves me some magical transformation of trash into treasure- art, all that’s green is gold in Thorne’s World, don’tcha know.  I can’t help but share a little Green Goodness today. Compost. Black gold, (we don’t need no stinkin’ oil!) baybee!

There are about a million different ways to make compost, it seems. If you Google it you may soon be overwhelmed by the variety of opinions and the types of composters; barrels and bins and cages; above or below ground. To turn or not to turn? To add newspaper? To layer or not to layer?

You might, like me, find yourself drowning in a sea of terms; anaerobic, biologic factors, microbial activity… I try to keep it simple in thornesworld.

It’s really not that difficult.

Left to its own devices nature creates compost anywhere a pile of leaves or bracken rests long enough. I think we tend to make things too difficult sometimes. It’s true that the way you do your compost and the materials you add will affect the temperature and amount of time it takes to degrade and become good for your garden, but when it comes to compost a little common sense goes a long way.

Out here on the ranch, We have a variety of compost areas and methods, but since we have plenty of space and lots of time, I don’t worry too much about my compost. I have BIG piles of weeds and bracken that are patiently awaiting the lawnmower to chop them down to size. They are, of course, composting in their nether reaches while they wait.

I have the heap in the corner of the pumpkin/someday goat yard of wild mustard, green tumbleweeds, kitchen scrap and the mess of newspapers and bird seed, food and droppings that I clean from the cage bottom of Sam, my rescued parrot. (The wild pigeons, doves, quail, ravens and crows love to feast on the leftovers, and help to shred the newspapers for quicker composting.) This one requires occasional watering if we’re short on rain (which we usually are) and then I fork the top foot or so back to shovel out the good compost underneath.  Then I sift it through 1/2 inch hardware cloth and toss any big chunks back in to finish composting.

Then there is the load of wood chips that is slowly turning to compost, and the horse manure that the local feed stores and dude ranches are happy to let me haul off for free, and the couple of piles out in the corners of the yard that I never quite got around to hauling over the compost cage above. These large piles will be mixed and mashed and shredded and mown and watered and turned eventually to compost.

I can almost hear you all yelling,

“But we don’t have that much space, (or time, or patience)!”

It’s okay.

The biggest problem most folks seem to have tends to happen when their compost piles get too big to deal with. My advice is to start small and take what you learn with you as your composting “grows up”! Probably the easiest and most quickly efficient method is what I call my bag method.

I start with a plastic or vinyl feed or potting soil bag, but a heavy duty lawn bag or two works just as well. Start with a few inches of soil in the bag. I generally use the worn out potting soil from when I’m re-potting in the spring and throughout the year.

First I toss in all the brown clippings and trimmings from the potted plants I’m sprucing up. Then the weeds I pull walking back and forth to the mailbox or taking the dogs for a run.

Coffee grounds and kitchen waste (I tend to avoid meat products in all of my compost, although that is another matter for much controversy. I’d just as soon skip the flies, and maggots are just gross).  I really love this little kitchen compost bin.  It’s got a charcoal filter in the lid to keep odors in.  Plus.  Stainless steel, am I right?

When there’s a sloppy bunch of kitchen scraps- coffee grounds, tea bags, potato or other vegetable peels and fruit trimmings I usually toss in some more soil to keep the smell and flies down. I often put a few scoops of rabbit poop in, too.  This does sort of follow the “layered” technique, but not because I really work at it, it just seems to happen that way. It usually takes me only a few days to a week at most to fill the bag. I water it a bit and then tie the top up tight and set the bag in the garden in the sun.

As soon as one bag is full, I start another. If you run the kitchen waste through a food processor each bag becomes pretty much fully composted in 2 weeks or so. If you toss larger pieces of kitchen waste in your compost bag give it a month. If there are any large chunks of plant matter that haven’t fully broken down when I open the bags, I sift them into a working bag and let them go another round!

This quick and easy compost method makes great potting soil, compost for flower beds, raised vegetable beds; just about any small gardening area you can think of.

Once you have mastered the compost bag technique, it is pretty simple to move to larger quantities as space permits. Just keep the same balance going that works for the bags.

I’m about to start a little kitchen worm farm, and chickens are coming to thornesworld this year, so I’ll let you know how that goes once we get rolling. I hear chickens make short work of weeds and kitchen scraps. I can’t wait!

Got a special method that works for you? I’d love to hear your experiences with composting so don’t be shy, leave me a comment!

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Vernal Equinox – Beginnings and Renewal

The first day of spring, the Vernal or Spring Equinox, occurs between March 20th and 21st here in the northern hemisphere.  This year it’s today, March 20, (at 2:58 PM, here where I live).

Many pagans and Wiccans celebrate it as Ostara, so named for Oestre, a Germanic Goddess of Spring.  Other Deities associated with spring include Asase Yaa of the Ashanti, the Roman Cybele and Norse Freya.  In Japan, people remember their ancestors for Higan (Higan-e or Ohigan), while the Vernal Equinox marks the beginning of the Iranian New Year, Nowruz, in accordance with the Persian astronomical calendar.

Here in Thorne’s World, it’s not so much of a religious celebration as it is a celebration of everything Spring!  The first buds are appearing on the trees, the first blossoms that foretell summer’s fruits, and even in the desert there are tiny wildflowers everywhere. The cottontails and jackrabbits are peeking out of their warm winter dens and feeling frisky as they nibble on early greens and chase their future mates in playful flirtation. (You know, they’re “mad as a March hare”.)

Here in California we’re celebrating the first time in seven years that our water tables have filled up.  The end of a seven year drought is just one more reason to celebrate this year. The rain this year has also provided us with a state wide super bloom of poppies and other native flowers blooming with wild abandon, and our Painted Lady Butterfly migration is a sight for sore eyes, if a messy spectacle of windshield washing for California commuters.

As a pagan household, we often choose to celebrate our holidays in conjunction with the official federal holiday, which of course are in accordance with the majority religion in this country of Christianity. We also have an open choice policy with the grandgirls, as I did raising my own daughter, and we allow and encourage exploration of other religions and spiritual paths, so they’ll soon be enjoying Easter and all of it’s pagan symbols with their Christian Nana. As we celebrate our nature rites and the turning of the Wheel of the Year,  we teach my grandgirls the pagan origins of most of the rites and symbols, such as the fertility of rabbits and eggs and the sweets offered as part of the sacrificial observances and the rebirth of the God form across many cultures that historically predate Christianity as well as being currently celebrated in numerous world religions.

We like to do a little crafting as part of our celebration, so this year we’ll be making paper mâché eggs filled with birdseed to hang with colored ribbons from the trees, as offerings both to the spirits and the wild, flowers shall adorn the altar and seeds shall be sown indoors to await warmer soils, as we welcome spring.

It’s a good time for that Spring Cleaning and cleansing you’ve been putting off. Clean and decorate your altar and your home before you head out to the garden! And it’s a really good time of year to do love spells, to do spells to increase or strengthen love and friendships, to make love and work fertility magick if you want to have a baby, to do prosperity and money magick, (why not start a Prosperity Witches’ Bottle?  Instructions here) or really just anything you wish to increase or multiply. It’s a Full Moon tonight, and a Super Moon, at that, so that beautiful pregnant moon will only add its power to your desires.

How do you mark the Spring Equinox? I’d love to hear about your traditions and celebrations.

 

 

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Tarot Tuesday- Dark Moon Edition

Will you walk under the starred velvet sky tonight, dazzled by the bright diamond cut outs revealed by the darkness bereft of moonlight?

I got a new tarot deck last week.  It’s stunning. Inspired and inspiring.  Magick.

It came in the mail on Friday and I spent the weekend sleeping with it on my headboard  and familiarizing myself with its very unique vibe. I saved its inaugural draw for you.  For Dark Moon.

It’s the ShadowLight Tarot, by Eric Tecce and you can find it on instagram, @shadowlighttarot, should you find yourself as drawn to it as I was and am. (This isn’t an advertisement or promotion, per se; I occasionally share products and services of which I’m particularly enamored.  This is one of those.)

While shuffling the 10 of cups jumped out or the deck and landed in my lap.  I set it aside to consider whether it was relevant or not (slippery new decks make for a lot of these sorts of oracular presentations, so it may or may not be relevant-  that’s for the reader to determine).

The draw is The Tower, in all of its wild destructive glory. To gaze upon it is to feel the earth tremble beneath your feet while the wind howls around you and lightning strikes its refraction into your eyes. Will you fall?  Will you topple from the top of the tower that no longer serves you to land beside the ruins?  Or do you stand beside your tower knowing its time has come, braving the storm and ready to renew yourself and rebuild with new and better tools?

Either way, The Tower speaks of the collapse of important aspects of your life.  It may be occurring on any plane, finances and career, love or friendship, the terrors of the world… But during this Dark Moon, when we turn within to greet our shadow, my heart tells me these are interior crashes for many of you.  Illusions you’ve held, even nurtured about yourself or others have been brought into the cold light of the stars and revealed to you.  Truths you’ve ignored or hidden suddenly shine brightly.

However it comes to you, it feels like the end of the world.  You fear it’s more than you can take, just that one thing too much.

It’s not.  We survive these catastrophic collapses with intuition and fortitude.  Now is the time to look carefully at what brought about this collapse.  Often it’s not of our own making in the whole, but if we seek intuitively we can find the part we have played and see the necessity of the destruction. And through this insight we can see where and how to heal, to rebuild.

And here.  The 10 of Cups did come to offer comfort in this difficult time.  To remind that we are grateful for our learning, our lessons. Of wholeness and fulfillment. That the work pays off.  That brighter days are coming as a direct result of the storms we weather.

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Thorne’s Natural Bug Repellent

I hate poisons and pesticides, and it’s that time of year here in Thornesworld. Bugs, bugs and more bugs. You might remember that here in my desert home we have some big, scary bugs like scorpions and of course spiders like the Desert Recluse that bit me when I was sifting my wood chip pile from hell, but today I want to talk a little about your run of the mill, garden variety bugs and the hated flies, mosquitos and ants.

As I think I’ve told you all before, I live in a house that was built sometime in the mid to late 1800’s. Do I need to say that the places for bugs to get in are countless? And although covered porches rawk in the desert, helping to keep the house a little bit cooler, they also suck since they seem to be very happy places for insects to live. I’m constantly chasing the black widows and wolf spiders off of my porches (although my black widows are perfectly polite ladies, those wolf spiders sometimes chase me!), but the big issues for me are the flies. I hate them. I could spend all day swatting and still not make a dent, although I admit I have a blast with the zapper type swatters. I feel like the the legendary taylor “Seven at a blow!”

So I decided to do something about these bugs that are bugging me. I made a couple of completely organic pest repellants. I guess they are natural pesticides, but I think for the most part they drive the bugs away as opposed to killing them. I made one for our bodies and one for the garden. They are both working really well!

For the body recipe:

Equal parts Water and Witch Hazel (4-8 oz ea depending on the strength and quantity you need)

15-30 drops each of the following essential oils:

lavender

rosemary

clove (1/2 the amount of the other oils)

cinnamon (1/2 the amount of the other oils)

As soon as my Calendula (Pot Marigolds) bloom, I’m going make a water based infusion for this blend. Calendula flowers are a treat for the skin. Don’t get this in your eyes, it will sting like the dickens! (I also sometimes just make a Rosemary infused oil for the base instead of using the rosemary essential oil.  As you can see in the photo above, I have plenty of rosemary!)

This recipe can also be made as a salve, with a little beeswax and oil (I use virgin coconut oil, but olive oil or the carrier oil of your choice will work, too).  Or even handier than salves, are little Bug Off Body Bars, that you can easily mold like these little skulls I made from an ice cube tray, that you can rub right on and spread around.  I’ll be posting instructions on salve and bar making soon, as well as offering these in the shop, for those of you who have neither time nor inclination to make them yourself, so please check back often.

For the garden I made an insecticidal soap

32 oz spray bottle 4/5 full of water

1/2 oz of green soap (or dishwashing liquid)

40 drops rosemary

40 drops clove bud

100 drops cinnamon

100 drops pennyroyal

It works! I’ve rescued my strawberries from whatever was eating them! Stay tuned, o’ constant reader; I’ll be back with herbal salve making directions soon! In fact, I’m on my way to the kitchen to blend a batch of Thorne’s Balm (good for every prick, large or small! Hee hee!)

Peace, out!

 

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First Dibs Friday – Moon Phase Bath Salts & Sweet Blessings

This week’s First Dibs Offer is for my ritually crafted and blended, Full Moon and Dark Moon Bath Salts.  4 ounces of skin softening, scented magick for your bath.  Luxuriate in my blend of 3 Solar dried Pacific Sea Salt, Pink Himalayan Salt and Epsom Salts.  As always they ritually crafted and are composed of 9 herbs and oils, each chosen to honor and vibrate with the Full Moon or Dark Moon energy.  They do have a couple of herbs in common, being both of the moon, but then they diverge in light and shadow.  You will find the Full Moon scent a bit sweeter and lighter than that of the Dark Moon blend, which while still sweet, carries the musky undertones of the dark.

If you’ve made it this far, stay with me a moment longer.  I have a page and a group, over on Facebook.  My page is, of course, Thornesworld. My group, is Thornesworld First Dibs Group.  The group is just what it sounds like.  I offer weekly (usually) hand crafted magickal items there at a small discount or with free US shipping, before I list them in my shops.  So members get First Dibs.

Each 4 ounce bag comes to my first dibs friends for only $7 with free US shipping, or choose one of each for only $13.

But here’s the deal.  It’s only available through my First Dibs Facebook group.  So if you want in on this deal, head over to my Facebook Page,  Thornesworld, and give me a “LIKE”.  Then, either click on the “Visit Group” button, or go to Thornesworld First Dibs Group and join.  You’ll find this offer near the top of the feed.  Thanks!

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Tarot Tuesday – Health & Balance

Today’s pull is from one of my favorite decks when I’m feeling like tapping into archetypal energies for some deep truths.  This is the Motherpeace Tarot by Vicky Noble and its theme is A way to the Goddess through myth, art and tarot.  It’s really a fun deck with bright colors, archetypal imagery, and the round shape of the cards.

Our card is the Priestess (Queen in traditional decks) of Discs (pentacles). Since she came out pointing almost perfectly upright, we know that her message for us is clear and pretty straightforward.

See how this queen sits, so at ease and in perfect balance with her world?  She eats well of the food she has grown and gathered and feeds her children both from her own body and from the body of the mother.  She works when it’s time to work, rests when it’s time to rest and plays in the play times, as well.

These days we hear a lot about practicing self care, but the Priestess of Discs knows that all of these are acts of self care and together create a balanced and healthy life.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our job, for instance, that when it’s time for play or rest, the job seems to seep into them, disturbing our rest and interrupting our play.  Or we allow stressed out to become a state of being, coloring everything we do.  Or we hurry from one task to the next and forget to eat or drink until our body screams for sustenance and energy then we grab anything, even if it’s garbage that our bodies don’t really need.

Slow down. Pay attention to your body’s needs. Leave your job at the office, or your desktop or work table. Bring your full mind and spirit to your rest and your play. Pay attention to your thoughts. Be in the moment you’re in.

So this week your focus is balance and harmony between your various activities.  Work, movement, rest, nourishment, meditation, dreaming and play.  Don’t forget to play!  If you can really tap into what this sort of balance feels like it will become second nature to you and you will find yourself less stressed  and moving in harmony with your world.

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First Dibs Friday – Moon Phase Incense

This week’s First Dibs Offer is for my ritually crafted and blended, Full and Dark Moon Loose Incense.  Half an ounce each of these luscious blends.  As always they are composed of 9 herbs, resins and oils, each chosen to honor and vibrate with the Full or Dark moon energy.  They do have a couple of herbs in common, being both of the moon, but then they diverge in light and shadow.  You will find the Full Moon scent a bit sweeter and lighter than that of the Dark Moon blend, which while still sweet, carries the musky undertones of the dark.

If you’ve made it this far, stay with me a moment longer.  I have a page and a group, over on Facebook.  My page is, of course, Thornesworld. My group, is Thornesworld First Dibs Group.  The group is just what it sounds like.  I offer weekly (usually) hand crafted magickal items there at a small discount or with free US shipping, before I list them in my shops.  So members get First Dibs.

So, half ounce each for only $13, with free US shipping.

But here’s the deal.  It’s only available through my First Dibs Facebook group.  So if you want in on this deal, head over to my Facebook Page,  Thornesworld, and give me a “LIKE”.  Then, either click on the “Visit Group” button, or go to Thornesworld First Dibs Group and join.  You’ll find this offer near the top of the feed.  Thanks!

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Tarot Tuesday – Doubt & Delay

Today’s pull is from one of my very old decks.  This is the Knapp Tarot, 1929 original printing deck. Even the reproduction decks are long out of print and quite sought after by collectors. It’s slightly reminiscent of the Rider-Waite, but different in both style and detail. This deck combines symbolism from ancient Egypt, Qabbalah, alchemy, astrology and other systems as was common in occult decks of the period.  Knapp added a then unique element of small schematic symbols on the face of each card which the viewer is instructed to meditate upon to develop their own psychic intuition. It was gifted me by a lovely crone who has since passed.  She was a student of the occult and a member of the Edgar Cayce association and I spent hours upon hours poring through her materials and discussing Cayce’s prophecies and other writings.

On to the reading for this week.

Doubt, delays, grief… are you suffering?  Has this current dark moon cycle brought repressed issues up to flood you with long held pain?  Are these feelings holding you back, causing you to doubt yourself or even blocking your progress and desires? The only way out is through.  Let me repeat that, because it’s important.

The only way out is through.

Childhood and adult experiences of pain, grief and trauma become a deep and sometimes crystalized or solidified part of our shadow selves.  Now, by now you all know I’m all about embracing our shadow, but I’m here to tell you it can’t be done unless you’re willing to dive into it.  Keeping it repressed and unexamined just allows these traumas to gain power over you as they bubble to the surface and cause us to act out from that place of pain, anger, insecurity and fear.  It allows the shadow to rule you, rather than you acting as one with your shadow self. It makes us unknowingly and seemingly unwillingly hurt ourselves and others over and over again.

So this week just allow yourself to see, feel and understand.  Embrace your left handed sibling.  Feel and love her.  Walk through this and come strong and clear out the other side.  You’ve got this.

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Imbolc, St Brigid’s Day, & Groundhog Day – A Cross Quarter Celebration by Any Name

Halfway between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox and it’s time to party, right? In Thornesworld this means a cleaning of the altar, some Calendula and Swiss Chard that made it through winter as offerings, baking some herb and seed breads and poring over seed catalogues and working on my tree budget. This year shall bring Fruited Mulberry number two, a couple of Hardy Kiwi’s, Apricot, Plum, more Honey Locust and a Black Locust (gotta have more thorns)!

The Celtic Goddess, Brigid, is associated with this holiday (later St. Brigid of Christian lore), and charms and favors can be left at wells or tied to a bush or tree in her honor and to bring good health.

The season’s craft with the grandgirls will include some “wheat” weaving  (traditionally rushes, but we shall be using straw) and we’ll make offerings of milk to the earth and do some wild foraging for seeds to redistribute.

Traditional celebrations include hearth fires and bonfires, (weather permitting) celebrating the lengthening days and returning warmth of the sun.  Candles work if neither of the big fire options are available to you.  It’s also a special time to be aware of signs and omens of the coming season.  Pay attention to the movements of animals and plants in your environment and don’t forget to wish upon a shooting star!

If frost won’t kill it, it’s starting to grow.  Spring is on its way in, but how soon and how badly will the tail-end of winter be? If the Cailleach, (the divine hag of Celtic tradition) is out in the sunshine gathering her firewood, she’s sure to wish for a few more weeks of winter. However, if the weather is foul, she’ll stay snuggled in her warm bed and the cold days and nights shall soon pass.  If you see a bird carrying a stick, gather your own firewood because winter’s going to stay yet awhile. The hag, snakes, birds and badgers and other animals across many cultures have been known to predict weather, which brings us to Groundhog Day, suspiciously close to this cross quarter festival.  This one is really just an animal version of the divine hag.  If the groundhog sees his shadow  (clear, sunny day to gather firewood) we get six more weeks of winter.  If not, (overcast- foul but good sleeping weather) then spring comes soon.

Either way, I’m sowing my seeds in my tiny greenhouse shelf so they’ll be big and strong once the last frost is past and the beds are ready to receive them!  Happy spring dreams to all!

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Tarot Tuesday – Awakening and Renewal

For this week’s tarot forecast I’m using this lovely Shadowscape Tarot, by Stephanie Put-Mun Law.  It’s a little light on symbolism for my taste, but a gorgeously illustrated deck full of flowing and fantastical imagery.  I was given her book about the deck- not the book that goes with it rather the volume of illustrations and sketches of her creative process and loved her illustrations enough to try out the deck.

Today’s pull is Judgement.   Are you ready to wake up? Do you feel yourself on the precipice of a greater and possibly universal understanding?  Are you seeking a higher knowledge of your life choices and path and ready to move toward the next level? Then the message of the Judgement card is calling you.  You can renew yourself, your outlook and attitude, your choices.  Right now.

In order to do that you’ll have to let go of that fear and disillusionment.  You’ll need to examine old prejudices and judgements and open yourself to the possible pain of your mistakes.  This week could bring some of those changes to you, and if you go with it, embrace and move through and past it, be open to a greater understanding- who knows where your vision may take you.

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